This segment originally aired Oct. 28, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
University of California, Irvine, pays freshman James Lattman $5,160 per year in financial aid to play a video game called League of Legends.
Competitive video gaming is big business, with the global market valued at $893 million. This fall, UC Irvine became the first public university to grant scholarships for eSports in an attempt to tap into that market.
“The money was there, and so I came up with this crazy idea: What if we were to create a scholarship program, build a facility?” Mark Deppe, the school’s eSports program director, told VICE News correspondent Bijan Stephen. “When I started pitching it around, everyone thought it wasn’t so crazy.”
So far, UC Irvine has recruited five players to receive financial aid through the eSports program, with plans to expand to 10 players. The university spent $250,000 on an arena where the team will compete.
Lattman spent three years playing League of Legends professionally after graduating high school. He decided to give college a try when he heard about the scholarship.
There are already dozens of college teams competing in eSports leagues, but Lattman said he’s ready for even more competition.
“I do expect that other major public universities will probably be likely to follow suit in the near future.” he said. “I invite them to do so. We’ll still own them.”